Most of my personal training clients will say this sentence during our first assessment: “I eat healthy most of the time, but I love food so much I just don’t know how to stop…” insert guilty puppy face.
Truth is you might not be at your ideal weight even if you eat relatively healthy and exercise regularly. Why? The culprit is too often over eating, meaning you are eating too much compared to what your body needs to thrive. Especially if you are currently working out, a common mistake is to over estimate the amount of calories you are burning a day and even worse eat a whole bunch of cookies because “you worked hard today” ruining all your hard work in a minute!
We focus more and more on the quality of the foods we eat which is great but we forget that the amount we are eating is just as important. What happens when you are eating too much? Your body doesn’t know what to do with this extra food and stores it for a rainy day. Say hi to fat!
Not sure if you are currently overeating? Let me ask you three questions:
Have you ever eaten without being specifically hungry?
Have you ever felt your stomach stretching and becoming a bit painful but you kept on eating to finish your plate?
When is the last time you felt truly hungry?
If you answered YES to question one and two and took more than 30sec to answer question 3: Welcome to the overeating gang!
I can hear you ask: but what is being truly hungry?
My test usually is: Imagine yourself buying the food / dish you hate the most in the world. Keep it in your fridge. You will be only allowed to eat if you are so hungry that you could eat that dish in one go. This is being hungry. When your body send a SOS message: SEND ME FOOD – ANY FOOD so I can function properly!
Not to be confused with the moment we feel like popcorn because we just smelled that amazing sweet flavour across the hall.
If you feel a bit lost now and wonder why your mind is tricking you, know that food and beverage companies have been studying these reactions for years and they know how to make you crave pretty much anything instantly! Imagine, processed foods nowadays are formulated with the right amount of salt, sugar, oil, even crunchiness to make sure your brain will do everything in its power to keep eating. Scary right?
How do we fight back and end up eating the right foods at the right time in the right amount? Here are 5 tips to follow:
1.Always ask yourself: Am I really hungry?
It’s 12:30pm. Your colleagues ask you: “Would you like to join us for lunch?” You have not been thinking about food and your stomach is not growling, but hey it’s lunchtime!
Well this is where you have it wrong. Mindful eating starts in the mind. Think about it twice. Am I hungry or am I just eating because everyone else is? Listen to your body, it is perfectly made to send you the right signals. No “feeling hungry” messages? Well thank your colleagues and tell them you are not hungry yet and will pick up something later.
It seems like such a simple rule but it is a hard one to follow. We usually forget to listen to our bodies and eat because it’s time which is a BIG mistake if you are trying to maintain or lose weight! We put so much energy in ignoring and misreading the communication we have with our bodies; I am not going to lie this change will take active thinking and will probably be the hardest to implement. However, it will also be the key tip to lose or maintain a healthy weight. Ready to give it a go? I would suggest adding a reminder on your fridge, next to your TV or on your computer: eat ONLY when hungry not when you feel like it!
2.Find the right environment to eat
Where I come from, France, food is a god that should be celebrated 3 (or 4 for kids) times a day. We usually take time to cook, we sit down, put aside an hour and a half of our day (our lunch breaks are usually 1,5hrs even at school) and eat mostly home cooked food with friends and family.
As you may know, this is not true for Singapore: everyday meals are ordered and consumed quickly while watching our computer, TV or phones.
Let’s learn from the French:
- Try to find the right environment to eat. A quiet place where you can focus on what you eat.
- Look at your plate, see how beautiful and colourful food can be!
- Avoid looking at screens or books and truly enjoy that beautiful process
What will happen:
- You will eat slower
- Your food will taste better (yep it is scientifically proven)
- You will feel full faster
- Disclaimer: You might even lose weight from this
Worth a try?
This is also a simple but good one. How do you feed a toddler? You give small bites and plenty of time for them to chew and swallow food. Once the food is fully swallowed and ONLY then, you give them another bite. Remind me why are we not doing the same for adults?
- Take small bites: it has the added benefit of making you look like a member of the royal family 🙂
- Chew properly: make sure foods are fully chewed before you swallow them Try to chew your food 30 times before swallowing it. Will it take a while and get tiring? Yes but this one of the reason why we are doing it!
The more you chew the more you release acids that will help digesting your food, avoid overeating and feeling bloated. Who is keen on feeling full faster and digest better? Then take your time and enjoy your food to the fullest!
4.Listen to your body
As I said earlier, we have become masters at ignoring or undermining our body’s messages.
Reconnect with your body and try to understand how you feel while eating. Feel your stomach filling up – getting heavy, perhaps it is time to stop? What is my body trying to say? Am I still hungry or am I just eating to finish my plate?
These are fundamental questions you should ask yourself at every meal. Yes even the ones at a restaurant or with family. We tend to overeat when we are with friends and family as the focus is more on the company than food. Feeling full? Don’t order desert and take a tea / coffee instead to make this moment last longer. Your plate is not finished? “Tabao” your leftovers and eat it later!
5.Put your utensils down from time to time
When I grew up the rule was to put down our utensils every 3 bites. It was a common thing to teach children to avoid eating too quickly and end up vomiting or being bored to death during the 2.5hrs we had to spend at the table.
Let’s try to follow this rule. You will digest better, feel less bloated after food, eat smaller portions and become the most entertaining person at the table!
Stopping overeating can be challenging but the good news is that it can be done without spending a cent. You just need to reconnect with your body, listen to it and make every meal a small celebration!
Try those tips and let me know if it worked for you. If you have more tips to avoid overeating please let me know in the comments section below, I would love to read them!